Wartime food challenge: belly ache already!

As I write this blog entry, I am wondering if I need a bucket handy. I’m not feeling too good, and it’s all due to my new food challenge this week. My wild food week is now over – it was a lot of fun and I especially enjoyed meeting Kris Miners – (I’ll let you know at the end of the month whether it helped me save cash) and now I am travelling back in time to World War Two and rationing. As food prices spiral, some people have suggested that revisiting WW2 recipes and our waste not, want not attitude to food then, might help shoppers save and maybe even fight obesity.

Well, my first attempt at cooking a WW2 recipe has certainly helped me lose my appetite! I’d been leafing through my Eating for Victory book, a collection of WW2 cooking instruction leaflets from the Ministry of Food, to try to find a quick lunch recipe, and I came across one called Cheese Savoury. It sounded harmless enough – just mix a beaten egg (or reconstituted egg) with half a pint of milk, seasoning, 4 oz grated cheese, 4 oz breadcrumbs and some mustard, and bake in a greased oven dish for 20 minutes. Compared to some of the offal recipes, I felt I was breaking myself in gently.

DJ had the day off yesterday and we were lunching together. I served up the cheese savoury, which strongly resembled a pile of cat sick, onto a plate with a little side salad al fresco as the weather was nice. He sat down uncertainly and gazed at the plate in disbelief. “I’m sorry, but I can’t eat this,” he said, looking green. In my enthusiasm I’d forgotten he has a strong aversion to soggy bread. “Don’t worry, I’ll make something else,” DJ said, while I gamely tucked in. Surely it couldn’t be that bad? But soon I began to feel queasy. The taste of mustard was very strong and I wondered if I hadn’t cooked it for long enough, as perhaps the breadcrumbs should be hard and not soggy. I couldn’t work out whether I was still hungry or going to be ill. I thought I was tired of eating dandelions, but come back weeds, all is forgiven!

I just hope the other wartime recipes are more appetising. How on earth did people stand eating this stuff during the war, or have we just become big food softies? I don’t know. At least tonight’s meal should be tastier. John the Poacher has done us proud this week with two wood pigeons. He also brought us a rabbit but unfortunately some of the shot had entered the stomach cavity, which can contaminate the meat so we weren’t able to use it. But game and rabbits weren’t rationed during the war so we can eat our fill.

The kitchen was a sight as we set about trying to deal with the fare. The patio is still covered in pigeon feathers, but hopefully my neighbour will assume it is the cat’s doing. Funnily enough, Dougal the cat felt the need to join in with his own contribution to the wartime larder.

After observing DJ dealing with the pigeons, he ran into the house clutching a mouse in his mouth, (fortunately still intact) and as I tried to rescue it, it disappeared. Where had it gone? I puzzled for about five seconds before realising the creature had done precisely what any stereotypical mouse would do – it ran up the leg of my jeans! I shrieked a little – more out of surprise than fear – and shook the bellbottom of my jeans and out it came!

Do you have any memories of World War Two food or rationing? Did your parents or grandparents tell you what they used to eat? Let me know by leaving a comment.

 

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9 Responses to Wartime food challenge: belly ache already!

  1. rik says:

    I\’m sure people who lived in the country would have had a better diet than town folks during the war. Apart from eating the wild plants they would have had no choice but to keep down pests like pigeons and rabbits (as today) and eating pests is a good way of keeping their numbers down!
    Tell John the poacher to use an air gun, one shot to the head will kill a rabbit so there\’s no problem with lead here and there in the rest of it. The only difference is you shoot them while they\’re still compared to moving as with a shotgun. I have a 1906 B.S.A. Lincoln Jeffries air rifle that I\’m sure would have been used to great effect feeding it\’s owners and their families during BOTH wars, it still capable of dealing with a rabbit at close range even at 102 years old! And pellets are much cheaper (and quieter) than shotgun cartridges!

  2. Christine says:

    Remember that you would have been able to use the eggs from your hens freely and these would not have had to be used as part of any of the recipes in the books. Also you would have been able to grow vegetables in your garden – you\’d have had fertiliser from the chickens and could have saved your own seeds. Likewise you would have been able to make use of the weeds that you have learned about. Therefore don\’t get hooked up on the recipes in the books – there were many ways round things with a little bit of thought. Historians never tell you everything. That said – city side of family said food left a lot to be desired in wartime and the farming side had many tricks up their sleeves. Tale of two populations.

  3. piper says:

    Thanks Rik – might mention that to him. I guess the issue is that he\’s really shooting them to kill rather than eat. Otherwise as you say you\’d use an air rifle.
     
    Christine, I should have realised really but I\’ve been pretty surprised by how bland the food recipes were during the war. I suppose our palates have changed a lot. I think you\’re right and the countryside contingent would have eaten very well compared to people in towns. And allotments would make a huge difference.

  4. val says:

    I was a kid in the war, and helped my grandparents \’dig for victory\’ yes, we dug grew and ate all our own veg. We kept chickens, ducks, and the odd goose, also a couple of rabbits, gran baked bread every week, we grew raspberries, she made jam !! everything was preserved in jars, as there was no fridge or freezer, and guess what ??? we were very healthy.

  5. James says:

    I was born just after the war – the eldest of a family of eight – and I can only just remember food rationing. Luckily, we lived in a village in the North-east of Scotland, a fertile part of the world. My father fed us well from his huge garden and skilful use of gun and fishing rod. The food on the table was healthy and tasty, except for bought-in stuff such as the dreaded National Loaf (yuk) and margarine. I recall the jubilant look on my mum\’s face when butter ceased to be rationed.
    The biggest issue with many people, as I recall, was a  lack of sugar. But if you\’re brought up without it, you don\’t miss it, and tea without sugar is much more refreshing anyway. I remember when sugar came off rationing. I was at infant school, and the teacher lined the whole class up and gave us all a sweetie. Perhaps that day was the start of the slippery slope to obesity that most kids are on nowadays, as there weren\’t many fatties around in the early 1950s.

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  7. frederick says:

    On June6th,2009,myself and relatives are dressing in period dress of the time,and making Wartime Food recipes! On the agender deffinately will be my alltime favourite of Spam Fritters! The home-made batter mix consistimg of Mcdougles Self-raising Flour,and mixed into batter consistancy with old natural ale or stout! The Spam,cut into 1/4 imch thick slices! the dried eggs are also delicious!

  8. george says:

    hi as a child during world war two we use to have to scrimp,and save on food , such as catch wild rabbit,s rear our own fowl,s for eggs, save the dripping from our sunday roas,t make cheese from the milk we obtained from the farm where we lived, it was a very tough time for all of us. My mother use to use the dripping off the sunday roast, and add salt to spread on to our bread with out butter by the way, this was our sunday teatime treat, the rabbit meat with our own grown vegitable,s made a lovely stew fruit was gathered from the apple tree,s also plum,s from the plum tree,s we had wild blackberry,s mother use to make delicious fruit pies. for breakfast we use to have bread milk which consisted of bread being put into milk untill soft for dinner we ate fried potatoe,s left over,s from the previous day, so now we are haveing to deal with the credit crunch which to every one of us is leading to harsher time,s however it is not all doom ,and gloom we can substitute with food, and all survive, we had to during the last war, and we can today thank,s for your time george honeybun. p.s during the war year,s food was rationed not today

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